FIFA 15 Review

First impressions are everything. And FIFA 15 manages to pretty much score an own goal right from the off. Server issues and bugs have dominated the game’s first few days on sale. Some even rendering the game unplayable until you do some workaround involving multiple profiles or UPnP router settings. Not a great start then.

It begs the question whether reviews keen to be out prior to launch are always a good thing, and whether a Destiny-like approach is more acceptable in this more online world we live in. But maybe that’s a discussion for another time. The main bug in question being one where, even offline, the game has horrible lag/slowdown. It’s like playing the world’s worst online game, and that’s just going through the main menus. Then there are the server issues where Ultimate Team was pretty much dead, online ranked wins don’t count to your total, then there are a few minor animation issues which compared to what has come before, are easily ignored. All point to the conclusion that FIFA 15 may have been a little rushed.

If there’s one thing FIFA will always have going for it is the presentation. This is very much like watching a Sky television broadcast, complete with Jeff Stelling introduction. Now with the complete addition of all the Premier League Stadiums, a few bizarre character animations aside, FIFA has never been this well presented. But how does it play?

Pretty well it has to be said. There are certain issues, most of them falling on the shoulders of the goalkeepers who can, at times, be as hapless as ever. But it plays a decent, fast paced game. And when we say “fast” we mean it. Pace is the king in this year’s FIFA. If you have a speedy winger or striker then it’s far easier to get through the defensive backline than it is to pass it around. It can turn it into a counter attacking tour de force at times, almost too much of one, but you can’t say games don’t become action packed.

Opponent AI feels like it’s been tweaked slightly, this could be just our imagination, but they now are more foul happy. A good thing as in previous year’s they’ve always been a little too reluctant to hit the ground with a slide. Now they almost feel more human. Overall it plays a solid game of football, but really depends on how you prefer to play. If you’re a more methodical passing player then perhaps you’ll feel a little hard done by as you’re undone by a particularly fast front line, especially as defending is rather challenging this year. Indeed, it’ll take a fair few games before you’re able to stop players rushing into your box.

The TV like presentation making it into the actual game, with replays and the such, and players now having what EA have dubbed, “emotional intelligence”. A big new graphical feature, players now reacting like they would in real life to certain on-pitch activities. Unfortunately, it needs a little work. Some emotional responses are a little comical, sometimes glitchy, and don’t look as good as we’re guessing EA had hoped. But then maybe this is the problem with cross gen games? We have no doubt that in a few years graphical power will come on leaps and bounds once last gen is abandoned, as it stands it looks okay, nothing spectacular.

FIFA 15 is certainly a hefty package. You have everything you’d come to expect from a FIFA game. Regular cups and tournaments, with the usual online play. Then there’s the fan favourite card game Ultimate Team. Of course, a large portion of the online modes depend on EA’s servers and has already been said, the launch has not been without its issues. It’s bad enough not being able to connect to servers, it’s another thing getting kicked off as you score an 89th minute winner.

And that’s the lasting impression you’re left with. That while there is a solid football game underneath, the game is so riddled with bugs that it’s hard to recommend the game in its current state. And if the demo is anything to go by then Pro Evolution Soccer looks to finally be ready to challenge for the crown once again.

Frozen Synapse Prime Review

Frozen Synapse is one of those games that you look at and think it would be great to have on the Vita. A game that appears from the off that it is ideal for your wonderful little handheld that could. Well the teams at Mode7 and Double Eleven agree and Frozen Synapse is on the Vita in the form of Frozen Synapse Prime.

But what is Frozen Synapse Prime I hear you ask? Well simply put it is a simultaneous turn-based tactical strategy game. Yes, yes, it is an over-crowded genre the STBTSG, full of yearly franchises that offer nothing new… No, that’s not what this is at all. What you have here is a totally new experience on the Vita and one that is well worth taking the time to get to know.

Frozen Synapse Prime is a game that won’t grab you instantly like a platformer or a shooter and is unashamedly difficult as it progresses, but that is purely based on it being something new and not just a new take on a popular genre. But that difficulty comes in just beating the game, as controls wise and mechanics wise, it really couldn’t be any simpler.

You are free to use a mix of touch and physical controls, without the game pushing you towards one or the other. This is also extended to the menus, which must be commended as again there are many games out there which don’t give you the choice or find themselves made to favour one over the other. Here though you will find yourself happily using both options in equal measure, this is mainly due to the touch controls making sense.

Let us expand further. Frozen Synapse already has a home on Android and iOS thus meaning the developers have some experience with how best to use touch controls. So things like pinching to zoom work perfectly and are something most of us will understand in today’s age of touch screen devices. Touch and drag to move the screen around the level, tap to select, etc. These could have been used exclusively and been more than acceptable, but the developers also understand that there are buttons on the Vita, therefore they have made sure that every action has a function on the physical controls also and truth be told it is amazing how much more approachable this makes a game, being able to change up what you use on the fly, or even use a mix of the two to best suit your own needs. Using the shoulder buttons and right stick to zoom and pan, but using the screen to select and move. Wonderful.

The game mechanics too have a simplicity to them which understanding that not everyone has the time to learn over convoluted systems that are designed for hardcore fans only. Maps are easy to read and understand, enemies are clearly defined along with your own units, support and targets. You goals are clearly explained before each round and early tutorials explain the basics of gameplay in such a way that you feel comfortable very early on.

Turn-based battle systems aren’t exactly new, they have of course been the staple of the RPG for a very long time, but it is the simultaneous nature of the turn-based gameplay that stands out here. You and the enemy are making your decisions at the same time each and every turn, meaning you need to decide on a few factors with each turn.

Which path you want you units to take. Are they going to directly engage the enemy, try to flank them, try to avoid them to get a better position to attack? Which aiming system will you as you move? Will you focus on an enemy, sweep the area as you move, or aim in a general direction. You may even decide to have a unit hold their current position. At the same time though the enemy will be making their own series of choices, going through the same motions as you.

This could render the time you spent in the planning phase totally worthless, because like chess you will be trying to plan many moves ahead. What happens if you try to go this way? Are you safe from being picked off by an enemy sniper? What if this unit moves this way? Well luckily you can test out numerous scenarios before priming you move for real. You can try and plan what the enemy might do and what the reaction will be. By testing you will be shown the likelihood of your units being killed, or maybe what advantages the enemy can get over you.

It is possible to obsess over all the possible outcomes for what seems like an absolute age and yet, once you have decided on the best strategy for that one turn, it could all go wrong as the enemy does something unexpected or gets the jump on one of your units and you confident offense minded plan, suddenly sees you going on the defensive. Again though, while you may find some rounds taking ages to get through, others will feel like you are speeding through them, with your choices seemingly obvious and everything going right. It really is simplistically brilliant.

So if everything is so simple to understand, why might it not appeal instantly? Well that is because if doesn’t try to be a game that gives instant reward it is one that tries to test your own powers of logic and deduction and has the same rewarding feeling as winning a game of chess. Whilst not looking as fun as other games, to those who pick it up, it will feel great. Trying to sell it to your friends is another thing altogether, it just doesn’t have the visual appeal for the broader audience, nor does it have the that immediate sell if you get them to have a quick go. As with a game like chess it really does need someone who is willing to buy into it fully.

For those that do though, you will be rewarded with a rather excellent game and one that will give you hours upon hours of entertainment and can be played fully at your own pace. It is a perfect fit for the Vita and one that we will be spending a lot more time with.

Anomaly 2 Review

Tower defence games are certainly in abundance, Anomaly 2 though is different. It essentially flips it around as you now control the wave. Described as tower offence, it does enough things different to perhaps be worth your time.

A battle between humans and aliens, the plot is largely inconsequential ferrying you from one event to another, but the gameplay is what makes Anomaly 2 stand out. In traditional tower defence terms, you’re taking control of the runners instead of the towers. But it’s more than that. With a convoy at your disposal you can upgrade, sell and buy a variety of different vehicles each with their own attributes and morphing abilities. But it’s more than just picking the best vehicles for specific missions, much more.

You will have direct control of the Commander. Running around the battlefield you’re able to drop power ups to aid your convoy. These range from health to emp blasts. As the Commander you’re unable to die as when your health reaches zero you simply collapse for a few seconds before jumping back to your feet. Probably for the best as later missions get incredibly hectic.

Planning out your approach to each mission is a major aspect of Anomaly 2. At the start of each mission you’re able to select what vehicles to start with and your route through the level. It becomes a nice risk reward as you could go for the pick-ups in order to build a bigger convoy and upgrade existing vehicles, or take the easier route with far less resistance.

As you delve further into the story more vehicles open up and a larger variety of enemies appear. From simple towers that attack on sight to flamethrower units that can only shoot in three directions. There’s a great range of enemies to tackle and each one comes with its own unique aspect. Whether it’s the units that sprout up when you get too close or the ones that absorb energy if you fire too many shots. Figuring out how to approach each battle is the best part of Anomaly 2.

What isn’t the best part is the rather poor technical aspect. It’s not the best looking game you can find on PS4, far from it, so you expect it to hold up. However, cut scenes and the more intense moments result in a significant framerate drop. It’s not game breaking, but for a game that doesn’t exactly push the PS4, it’s a little disappointing.

With multiple medals to be earned depending on your performance in each mission, multiple difficulty levels and a challenging experience (even on Casual) there’s a lot to be found in single player. But if you get bored of this and want to take on the best Anomaly 2 has to offer, then there’s multiplayer.

First things first, finding an online game here is incredibly difficult. After waiting for around ten minutes it was clear nothing was happening. A quick look in the Global Leaderboard explained why. At the time of writing (half a week after release) there are just over a hundred people listed on the leaderboard. It’s a ghost town, and it’s a crying shame really as this is the sort of game that would flourish with an active community. Eventually though after much perseverance a game was found.

In a multiplayer game its offense vs defence with one player taking control of the vehicles and the other, the towers. The convoy controls pretty much the same as in single player; the towers however feel more like an RTS. Unlike with the convoy (don’t let everyone die), with the towers your main goal is not have your main base destroyed. There are a set number of routes on each map and you have to position towers in the best positions to defend. So in that sense it’s more of a traditional tower defence mechanic. Unfortunately you only start off with one map with the rest being unlocked as you play, and as has already been said, finding a game is extremely difficult. It’s a shame really, as due to this the shelf life has been severely shortened.

Anomaly 2 then is a game well worth having if you’ve always wanted to see a tower defence game from the opposite side of the battle. Unfortunately the single player while entertaining won’t last forever, and the ghost town multiplayer means there’s very little reason to return once finished.

The Great Ace Attorney – New trailer of the Phoenix Wright prequel

Capcom have shown the first gameplay footage of Phoenix Wright prequel, The Great Ace Attorney.

It’s completely in Japanese, so unless you speak there’s very little information that can be gleamed from the trailer. But it’s an Ace Attorney game so there’s a high chance it’ll be pretty damn good.

What we already know is it’ll be set in the early 20th century and has an appearance from Sherlock Holmes and Watson, who happens to be an eight year old girl.

It’s due out in Japan in 2015 with no news on a Western release. Though seeing as all Phoenix Wright games have appeared on these shores (barring spin-off Miles Edgeworth 2), you’ve got to believe it will eventually.

Silent Hills TGS 2014 trailer is all kinds of wrong

Will we have the courage to play this game come release? If the game P.T demo was anything to go by, probably not, but we’ll try!

A new trailer was shown at TGS 2014, featuring maggots, crazy giant hands and a decapitated head.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=owrZHQFjt98

Man, this looks good. But also terrifying.

Naruto Shippuden Ultimate Ninja Storm Revolution Review

Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Revolution is not a welcoming game for those not familiar with any of the previous 14 iterations and, in all honesty, it doesn’t need or intend to be. 

The game is under the huge assumption that you’ve played at least one of those games and are familiar with it’s strange mix of fighting, world roaming, item grinding and mission based distractions. It takes a LOT of wading to just to understand how the hell you’re supposed to play the bloody thing effectively.

Chances are if you don’t like, or even know about, the insanely popular Naruto manga/anime series then this game won’t have even touched the periphery of your awareness. As such, this review is written from the view of someone who has never played a Ninja Storm game and will possibly be of more interest to those who also have never played one rather than the fans of the series who have had it pre-ordered since it was announced.

What it boils down to is this: If you’re not a fan, don’t bother. There, that was easy.

You’re still here? Hnnnn, alright, alright.

It allegedly continues the story from the third Ultimate Ninja Storm game, but in what sense it’s difficult to tell as the main mode doesn’t have a story as such. The premise is you’re partaking in the Ultimate Ninja Tournament, where you chose from an initially small roster of characters (which expands to 100+) and you battle to determine who is the Ultimate Ninja. The battles are ranked, and split into Qualifying, Preliminary and Main. In between the battles you roam the limited open world to unlock characters, collect money, items, do a little shopping and play the lottery, which gives you costume, customisation options, videos, online card borders, titles and other trinkets to scratch that gambling/hoarder itch.

Around the free-roaming space are characters who ask you to complete tasks for them, and in return they’re generally unlocked and are able to be chosen as playable or support characters, which can also be used as Network Clones. The network clone is a customisable character with moves and items that you leave for other players connected to the internet to fight against, which is a pretty novel and interesting feature.

The Ultimate Ninja battles take place as a 4 person free for all rumble,  whereby you beat the snot out of your opponents and collect the Orbs they scatter like confetti. Whoever has the most orbs at the end of the round is declared the winner.

There are also one on one battles (it’s usually this type of battle during the missions and ‘Jobs’, another of the myriad distractions in the game) where you choose two support characters (a little like in the Marvel Vs Capcom series) and one of 3 fighting powers; Ultimate Jutsu, Awakening and Drive, each of which perform in different ways but all consume your Storm meter. You build the Storm meter through various means of collecting dropped Chakra or generating it while holding the Y button, but this method leaves you defenseless as you charge the meter.

The first large problem with this game is it doesn’t have an ‘easy entry’ tutorial to guide new players in. In this day and age Tutorials are a given at the beginning of any game, and many people bemoan the fact there are tutorials that slow down the pace of getting into the meat proper, but in this instance a clear and comprehensive tutorial would have been welcomed with open arms. Fanfare even. A parade would have been thrown for it, in all honesty. As it is there are tips and minor pointers on the loading screens which are also available in the start menu, but they aren’t nearly comprehensive enough to make sense to a complete newcomer. For example there’s instruction on how a Chakra Dash is effective in battle, but doesn’t actually tell you how to do the Chakra Dash.

There are other confusing design decisions, like the actual tournament. Complete the battles in a rank and the game seemingly ends. Then you load it up again and it welcomes you back to the tournament, unlocks more of the free roaming world, adds new items to the store and unlocks challenges where you have to fulfill certain criteria to win, but you can do all this with a completely different character to the previous rank. All the customisation unlocks are still there, all the items, but the game doesn’t differentiate between which character you pick. None of the NPCs call you by your characters name; there’s no contextual speech in that respect at all. It was odd reading a character refer to Naruto in the third person while being stood there playing as Naruto.

Then there’s the combat itself, which at first seems incredibly skill-less and after a while seemed just as skill-less. Each character seems to have minor variations on the same move set, the only differentiation being their Jutsu (special ninja moves to you and I). It seems the abundance of characters is simply to provide people with the opportunity to play as their favourite from the series. In the matches where you can build a team there are benefits to joining up characters which share certain keywords (Originals, for example, are the characters from the very beginning of the series), but it’s never really explicitly explained how it works.

In the four man battles there’s a toggleable lock on, but it’s not as spry as it needs to be and  you frequently find yourself locked onto a character on the other side of the arena while trying to figure out which way you’re supposed to flick the right stick to lock onto the guy that you’re aiming to clobber.

The AI is erratic as hell as well. Sometimes one of the opponents will attempt pound the tar out of you, or all 3 of them gang up on you and attempt to pound the tar out of you, or they’ll just stand there like a bump on the lawn and do absolutely nothing at all.

Looking at it from a purely objective, newbie, non-fan point of view it’s a pretty bad video game. The combat systems clash and jangle like a vehicular pile up, each one grinding against the others and making little sense on their own. There are so many items to choose from you can’t tell what’s useful in battle and what isn’t, and that’s before you get to things like Bento, food items which act as a buff during the battle, raising your attack, or chakra generation, or increasing your defense. The inventory is confusing as well, as there are a finite amount of items you can carry and should you go over that limit (which isn’t displayed anywhere, at all, ever) the items gained in, say, the Lottery are immediately sold. Or so the game says, it’s just another example of it being obtuse and ill thought out.

There’s also so much stuff crammed into the game intended to add distractions and means of unlocking and collecting stuff you can’t help but wonder if they’d spent less time on the fan service and more on the actual game and mechanics they could have made something ‘outsiders’ could enjoy. As it is, this game serves no other purpose than to give Naruto fans exactly what they want.

Flockers Review

You know Team17 right? They make Worms and…Well that’s it really. They have had a change of direction of late, moving into publishing, but also bringing their first new IP in over 10 years. 

With Flockers, older gamers may be forgiven for thinking they have seen it all before, as the game bares a striking resemblance to Lemmings and feels more like a direct sequel to the classic puzzler than just a game inspired by it.

However, that is no bad thing, the Lemmings mechanics are perfect for the sort of game it is and has never been bettered by any of the sequels or many clones there have been. Even the recent Vita release failed to live up to the original. However, Flockers seems to basically take the core concept and run with it, not hiding the fact it is essentially Lemmings with a new skin.

So for those maybe new to this sort of game, the basic concept is simple. You have to guide your sheep from the start of a level to the goal at the end, using a variety of tools to navigate the sprawling levels and avoid traps. The more sheep you get to the end, the better your score.

The tools at your disposal are level specific and often finite, so you won’t have something that helps you fall great distances if the level doesn’t require it. But this is also where things differ slightly from Lemmings, as some of the tools are only available once you pick them up in the level, rather than the original Lemmings structure of having everything you need at the start of every level.

Initially this feels odd, especially for a Lemmings veteran, but after a while it does start to make sense and fits with the level structure. If likened to anything, it shares more in common with Curve’s Mousecraft. What also differs from Lemmings is that there seems to be a few more physics based puzzles, which require precise inputs and timing to get through.

That’s the thing with Flockers, unlike Lemmings which presented a level, some tools and basically told you to work it out yourself, which could mean bodging your way through at times, but still succeeding, sometimes through luck rather than judgement, Flockers feels like it is a lot more punishing in later levels if you don’t take the route that has been designed for that level.

It’s not exactly a bad thing, but it does feel like sometimes the experimentation aspect is missing and rather you are literally looking for the chosen solution. Which also leads to another problem, there is an overall timer for each level but the pure scope and size of some levels, minus a lack of visual cues mean that at times, it can become an exercise in frustration trying to manage your sheep.

Some traps are seemingly activated out of nowhere, sheep can be teleported to other areas of the level, without the visual clue to tell you where and you can often find a level ending without any idea as to why, because of something happening off screen. This though seems to be because the developers have tried to advance the genre to a modern age, but have fallen short in some critical areas.

The trial and error aspect of a game like this is fine, Lemmings had it, but the level design allowed for it, Flockers however is pretty much a 50/50 in terms of levels that get the balance right and ones that get it wrong. The ones that do get it right bring some great memories flooding back, but the others become a lesson in frustration.

That being said, for fans of the genre, it is a game well worth getting stuck in to. The positives just about outweigh the issues that the game suffers and it does offer a fun challenge overall. Hopefully we see a sequel that irons out the frustrating aspects.

Destiny Review

It’s been out for almost a week now and if you happen to visit any website or message board you’ll see that Destiny is getting quite the mixed reaction. And it’s quite clear why, a mixture of MMO and FPS, Destiny is a brave decision to try and meld these two worlds together. It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s certainly ours.

Destiny is a hard one to explain, an amalgamation of Borderlands, Halo and an MMO, it’s proving to be quite the divisive game. With no early reviews due to the game always being online and, according to Bungie, needing to be played with an actual userbase (something we agree on) it meant a lot of people were discovering it for the first time and forums were full of discussion. Some positive, some negative. It’s been a while since a game has had such a variety of opinions.

Even after a week on release it’s still a difficult one to review. Like an MMO essentially what is being reviewed here is the base game, something that will evolve over time. With raids and special events already planned over the next couple of months this is a game that has the potential to get better and better. And that’s not to say the core game is bad, far from it.

The other two comparison mentioned at the start of this review are Borderlands and Halo. The Borderlands aspect coming with the teaming up and exploration of the world and the loot, but the core gameplay has far more in common with Halo than anything else. Unsurprising really when this is a Bungie game, when you enter a shootout everything just feels sublime. The best moments from Halo were not the cinematic moments (though those were nice), it was those moments when you’re in control of the action. Those massive open maps where you could plan your attack strategy, whether it was a full on frontal assault or sniping enemies from a distance. Destiny is very reminiscent of that.

There are no massive set pieces to be found in Destiny, no helicopters crashing down, buildings collapsing in slow motion as control is grabbed from your hands, you’re in control of everything. Whether this is what you want in an FPS these days is up to you, but in a world of COD-a-likes it’s a brave decision from Bungie to stick to its guns and distance themselves from the crowd.

A lot has been said about the lack of worlds to explore, and yes, there are only four planets available thus far, but that’s not to say there’s not a lot to do. Each planet coming with a variety of missions, from ones that progress the story, to Strike’s which are co-operative with up to two other players. The Strikes bringing our most tense moments yet, as the end bosses are just ludicrous, with massive pools of health and all teammates falling results in being sent back to the previous checkpoint. It brought back memories of Halo on Legendary.

Then there’s always the allure of loot, new weapons, armour and the like are found by completing missions and gathered from fallen enemies. New items are also able to be bought from the Tower, which acts as a hub world where you witness all other players walking around and, more often than not, dancing on top of buildings.

If you get tired of the single player then you can always take a trip to the crucible. This is where all the competitive multiplayer takes place with team deathmatches, free for all’s and objective game types. While Halo 2 is still the pinnacle of Bungie multiplayer shooters, Destiny definitely comes close in capturing that feel. And once again it all comes down to how solid the shooting feels, with each weapon feeling like it has its own tactical advantage, nothing feels overpowered. Level design is mostly of a high quality and (like single player), with constant updates this is going to be a massive time sink.

The area where Destiny really suffers is in the story department. Quite simply, there doesn’t seem to be much of one. You, as the Guardian are awakened (or something) by a Ghost, voiced by Peter Dinklage and are then just given various tasks from one planet to the other with barely a coherent thread between them. Honestly, we couldn’t tell you what the story is about other than aliens are bad, kill them all. A lot has been said about Dinklage’s performance as the Ghost, but he’s fine. Yes, he’s not as charismatic as the likes of Claptrap or even 343 Guilty Spark, but he’s not bad, just lacking a little in character. And that’s really what perfectly sums up destiny, it has all the great core gameplay, but in a game like this it needs a story and characters to really set it apart.

As a base for what may come after, Destiny is a great starting point. It’s clear Bungie aim to improve the experience and what they have here is a fine starting point that will hopefully evolve over time. Just don’t expect it to revolutionise the genre the same way Halo did.

Resident Evil: Revelations 2 – First Trailer and Details

In a shocking revelation (aha!) there’s a new Resident Evil game on the way, and it’s going episodic.

Resident Evil: Revelations 2, a sequel to the surprisingly good 3DS game (and later console port) see’s returning character Claire Redfield accompanied by series newcomer Moira Burton (daughter of Barry). This will also mark the first time the series goes episodic. Four episodes are to be released priced at $5.99 each or $24.99 for the season pass, no word as yet on the UK pricing. A proper retail disc is to be released at a later date.

The trailer below also seem’s to imply a return to the more horror focused roots, which after RE6 we would welcome with open arms.

Resident Evil: Revelations 2 is coming to PS3, PS4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One and is currently scheduled as “Early 2015”.

Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair Review

You awake to the sound of lapping waves. The last thing you remember is your first day at the prestigious Hope’s Peak Academy. Alongside yourself, fifteen other students have become stranded on the tropical paradise, Jabberwock Island. None of the others are familiar to you, and your teacher appears to be a… stuffed rabbit?

The sequel to February 2014’s Trigger Happy Havoc, Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair is the latest entry into the Playstation Vita’s surprisingly-packed psychological horror/visual novel genre. As in the previous game, the entity linking everything together is Hope’s Peak Academy – an elite school where every student is considered the zenith of their respective field. Examples include Peko Pekoyama, the Ultimate Swordsman, and Sonia Nevermind, the, um, Ultimate Princess.

It soon transpires that your presence on Jabberwock Island is actually a school trip… or so you are told. Despite this, something is amiss – there are no other people to be found anywhere in the complex, the airport is defunct, and surveillance cameras are dotted around the island. Out of nowhere, control of the resort is forcibly seized by a sassy, maniacal stuffed bear, and he has news for you: There is only one way to leave Jabberwock Island… Kill one of your fellow students, and get away with the crime.

If you quite literally get away with murder, you will be allowed to leave the island; every other student will be punished. If you are caught, the punishment will instead fall upon your shoulders.

Danganronpa 2 sees you assume the role of Hajime Hinata, a straight-laced student who just happens to have no idea what his ultimate talent is. Together with the other students, the aim is to explore the island complex for a way to unravel the mysteries behind your Battle Royale-esque hell.

It doesn’t take long before things get grisly and someone is dispatched, ending any pretense of a peaceful exploration of the island. When the body is discovered, the game’s focus changes; away from the happy-go-lucky paradise exploration and getting to know new friends, to a murder investigation that will have you second-guessing every other character for the rest of the game.

Evidence is gathered by inspecting the crime scene and talking to the other students to obtain their accounts; justice is served in a class trial. Within a makeshift courtroom, the case is discussed as a group; you must pick holes in the arguments that are presented to you, which will draw you towards an understanding of the crime, and subsequently, the killer.

Danganronpa is a difficult series to pin down. On the one hand, it revolves around crime scene investigation and the solving of a grisly and complex murder. However, the main antagonist is a stuffed bear, and when you find a piece of evidence, it is presented to you in the form of a “truth bullet”. Objecting to an argument during the class trial involves firing the appropriate truth bullet at the text representation of the incorrect statement from a… justice gun of some sort? The analogy is incredibly laboured. Danganronpa 2 goes one step further than the previous entry in the series, and introduces an additional weapon of truth – TRUTH BLADES with which you CUT THROUGH CONTRADICTIONS.

The class trial also features a number of minigames, designed to help you figure out vital clues relating to the investigation. Sometimes you must overcome the Hangman’s Gambit – a game of Hangman with moving parts. Other times you will have to Logic Dive, which is a mixture of Murderous Trivial Pursuit and a bad snowboarding game; finally, the class trial ends with Panic Talk Action, a rhythm-action game, which suffers some serious button lag issues.

Assuming you are able to correctly identify the killer during this class trial sequence, they will be punished. You bear witness to their fate, and are then left to deal with the consequences as a group.

Much of your exploration in Danganronpa 2 is undertaken in a first-person view, though the controls take some getting used to. You would be forgiven for mistaking Hajime for a baby giraffe at first, given how difficult it can be to accurately point him in the right direction. Gathering of truth bullets is reminiscent of a classic adventure game – a scene unfolds in front of you, and there are certain hotspots that can be targeted for further investigation. Rather than resulting to pixel hunting, a press of the Triangle button will identify everything that can be interacted with, which keeps things moving at a decent pace. In addition, the class trial will never start until you have gathered all the necessary information, so there are no points where you can accidentally lose due to missing an important plot point.

The puzzles and investigations are on the whole really satisfying. Each trial will begin once all the evidence has been gathered, but often the true nature of the crime will not become apparent until part way through the trial thanks to clever exposition and usage of evidence. The trials aren’t perfectly-pitched at all times; occasionally I felt the evidence I was presenting was not relevant to the discussion going on, or the answer was a leap further than I had thought. On the whole though, it does a good job of gently nudging you in the right direction and making you feel smart.

The English dub is decent if a bit ropey in places. Some of this can be blamed on the script, which is on occasion a bit forced; repeated use of words that are not usually used colloquially makes even the most emotional moments sound super-cheesy, and characters have a tendency to monologue a bit too much at times. On the more positive side, Goodbye Despair is packed full of obscure (and occasionally brazen), blink-and-you’ll-miss-it pop culture references, along with more than a few darkly comic moments.

A visual novel, much like any kind of storytelling medium, lives and dies on its plot, storytelling and atmosphere. Despite the dub not being perfect, occasionally awkward writing, the controls you have to fight with and terrible minigames, Danganronpa 2 hooked me from start to finish. Rather than play everything straight and revolve solely around a murder investigation, the increasingly disturbing situation that the game depicts bounces off the goofy antagonists, upbeat soundtrack and island bliss to produce an atmosphere so creepy, unnerving and claustrophobic – that you’ll never quite know what’s waiting for you around the next corner.

Suspend your disbelief and look past the rough edges, and the constant feeling of unease will more than make up for it.

The Walking Dead – Pinball FX2 Review

More bumper bashing, flipper hammering and ramp shooting score chasing from the only name in console digital pinball that matters.

2 new tables in as many weeks? We are spoiled, Zen Studios.  Taking its theme and appearance from Telltale Games’ excellent adventure series rather than the comic or TV show (and thankfully not from the God-awful FPS) The Walking Dead is the newest table for Pinball FX2/Zen Pinball.

After the relative generosity of the Guardians of the Galaxy table in terms of activating modes and acquiring score (see the review HERE) , The Walking Dead is not unlike being kicked in the knackers by a large navvy wearing hobnails.

It has to be said at this point reviewing pinball tables is quite difficult. There’s no real story or characterisation to comment on, the base mechanics are largely the same from table to table and the visual and audio fidelity tends to be consistent across them all because they all run on the same engine and aren’t particularly resource hungry hogs. It largely comes down to the design of the table and the mode activation, which is highly dependent on the skill of the person playing it. If that person seems to be a potato fisted idiot then it’s difficult to get a handle of how well designed a table is or isn’t.

The main problem is the ramps seem to be difficult to hit, especially the skill shot ramp on the right which seems to require almost pixel perfect timing (there’s a phrase from the 90s for you). The name implied by ‘Skill Shot’ means that it should be difficult to hit, but this is erring on the side of ridiculous with almost every attempt ending in Lee wondering “Did I miss something?”

The modes are triggered by hitting a walker (zombie to you and me) in the face until he drops back in his hole, then hitting the socket revealed by him. Then you’re asked to use the flippers to choose a mode, all of which are named after the 5 episodes in the first season of the adventure game, and after being asked to make a decision by the dot matrix display, for example ‘Save Shawn or Duck?’ or ‘Look for help or wait for night?’ you’re into the mode. It’s not actually clear what these decisions actually do should you complete the mode, so it feels like they had to crowbar the notorious decision making from the Telltale games in somewhere.

The modes are generally varied instead of just being of the “hit these ramps” variety, with you knocking down walkers that appear on the table, hitting the pop up zombie and then targets and then zombie again and even going into the Sniper mini game where you use the flippers to aim left and right and the launch button to shoot them down.

There are the usual ramp hitting modes, though, which are triggered by shooting for orbits and ramps, which have marvelously relevant  themes like searching for ammo and food, playing football with the kids to keep their spirits up (and the ball skin changing from silver to a football) and searching for paths around walkers.

All the modes seem incredibly difficult, with very tight countdowns and will only reward the most accurate of players. The Scout Ahead mode especially, as you have to hit specific ramps which are guarded by a walker-ball. If you hit it your main ball is reset and relaunched, losing seconds while it gets round the orbit and back to the flippers, which can be infuriating. Thinking about it though, all this is in keeping with the down-to-the-knuckle theme of the Walking Dead universe, where life, decisions and surviving are all difficult.

Zen can’t be knocked for keeping true to the Telltale games on which the table is based. The music, the vocal cues and the look of the table are all atmospheric and pretty unique, and, as played out as the genre is, it’s pretty great to have a zombie themed table that’s based on a decent franchise instead of something generic they could have churned out or, God forbid, based around Dead Island.

If you’re a Zen fanatic, chances are you’ve bought the table as soon as it was available and this review is a bit moot. Still, it’s a decent table, it’s just one of the crotch punchingly hard ones.

Velocity 2X Review

Futurlab have come a long way since releasing a little known game called Velocity as a PS Mini. Along with games such as Surge and Coconut Dodge, Velocity itself has also seen a remaster for the PS Vita and finally a proper sequel and for those in the know, one of the most anticipated games of the year.

Velocity 2X on the surface is more of the same, with what could seem some pretty needless additions just because it needed to have something new. However, the minor improvements to the UI, the controls and the more obvious new gameplay elements make for a sequel that improves on the original in every way, which in itself is impressive, when you consider how good Velocity Ultra was.

From the preview screenshots and videos you should be well aware that the biggest addition to the game is the new platforming levels, that see you control Kai on foot for the very first time. Initial fears that this could be a step too far for Velocity are soon calmed when you play these levels for the first time.

The precision that you need in the flying parts of the game are here in the platform levels and everything just feels like Velocity, despite literally bringing in a completely different genre and seamlessly weaving it into the original concept. This is where the team at Futurlab have really managed to show their talent.

It would have been easy enough to have the flying and platforming sections as independent levels and that would have still seen a fantastic experience. Yet, these two different elements make up single levels, mostly starting off with flying sections, before needing to enter a portal and go through a platforming section to unlock the next area of a level for flying.

Whilst this works great in critical urgency levels, where speed is the key element, they stand out as spectacular when it comes to playing the giant puzzle maps, that require you to work out a way through the map, often repeating visits to previous areas, before going back to others, gradually unlocking the gates to move further.

There are 50 levels overall each with a series of objectives that lead up to an eventual perfect run, which is completing all objectives to 100% in the specified time limit in a single run. The game teases you early on as getting a perfect in levels one to five is fairly easy, but then it becomes much more difficult, but never once feeling out of reach.

There are also various bonus levels to find and unlock which are very small mini games completely separate to the main game, so as not to interfere with the core experience. In fact, it is very hard to find fault with Velocity 2X, it is cross-buy, cross-save and on PS+ for the first month. Out complaint was going to be that we want more than the 50 levels on offer, but it seems that even then there may be more coming is the day one patch notes are true.

Velocity 2X works on so many levels, bosses are beatable, but the balance is spot on so that they are challenging without being unfair, but also they don’t come across as a minor inconvenience. Some become big levels in themselves, having you shoot from your ship, before entering the boss itself and doing some platforming.

Different powerups and skills are introduced at a perfect rate throughout the game and always keep it feeling fresh, even offering a lovely twist on the game (and maybe a hint as to what DLC may be?) very, very late on. You can also use the newly discovered weapons and skills to go back to earlier levels and access areas you couldn’t before, unlocking bonus content.

Even if you finish all the core game on offer, there are leaderboard which add some longevity as you try and get the best score possible. Early levels pretty much see most people grouped on the same points, but later levels have a massive spread, so you know there is always room for improvement.

The same cannot be said for Velocity 2X, it is hard to see where they could improve on what they have produced here. It is a game that us open to everyone, but rewards those who are willing to put in extra effort, it doesn’t exclude anyone and it a proper game, something retro for the modern era. We played on both the PS4 and PS Vita and if we are being honest, we couldn’t find a clear favourite way to play, it just works wonderfully well on both systems.

Futurlab made a bold claim that Velocity 2X is the game of the year 2014… They are not wrong.

New Persona 5 Trailer – PS4 version confirmed

Sony held a pre-TGS conference that was chock full of new game announcements and reveals, the biggest one for us though was a new trailer for Persona 5. 

We already knew it was coming to PS3, now we get the added announcement that a PS4 version is also in production. With just a 2015 date so far, it’s probably safe to say it won’t arrive here in Europe till late 2015, maybe even slipping into 2016. Still, this has got us hyped.

Here’s the anime trailer they showed: